The article is devoted to the history of changes in the Russian electoral legislation from the beginning of alternative elections in 1989 to 2017. In the first period (1989–1995), the legislation was mainly adapted to the conditions of competitive elections. In 1997–2003, work was carried out to fill the gaps and overcome the negative phenomena that have manifested themselves in practice. The prevailing desire was to make election laws meet international democratic standards. In 2005–2007, a counter-reform took place, which was marked by the introduction of a number of restrictions and prohibitions aimed at ensuring the dominance of one political party. In 2009–2011, along with the introduction of new restrictions, a number of concessions were made to the opposition. After not too successful for the “United Russia” elections of 2011 and mass protests, the legislation was somewhat liberalized, but then again there was a tendency to restrictions and prohibitions. Only in 2017 began to manifest a timid trend towards democratization. The conclusion is made about the need for radical comprehensive electoral reform.
The article discusses defects of Russian elections, with emphasis on the fact that the electoral systems being used favour the regime. The system used for registration of candidates and party lists allows the state to deny access to strong candidates whose election would inconvenience the state bureaucracy. Pro-government candidates are advantaged during election campaigns, as segments of the population that are dependent upon the state find themselves pressured to participate, sometimes including outright control of their vote. Furthermore, many regions experience large-scale electoral fraud. The article suggests means to overcome these defects, including a comprehensive revision of electoral legislation.